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Les Miserables Mass Market Paperback – Unabridged, March 3, 1987

4.6 out of 5 stars 1,121 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, Unabridged, March 3, 1987
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Editorial Reviews


"Hugo's genius was for the creation of simple and recognizable myth. The huge success of Les Misérables as a didactic work on behalf of the poor and oppressed is due to his poetic and myth-enlarged view of human nature." —V. S. Pritchett


"It was Tolstoy who vindicated [Hugo's] early ambition by judging Les Misérables one of the world's great novels, if not the greatest… [His] ability to present the extremes of experience 'as they are' is, in the end, Hugo's great gift." —From the Introduction by Peter Washington

--This text refers to an alternate Mass Market Paperback edition.

About the Author

Born in 1802, the son of a high officer in Napoleon’s army, Victor Hugo spent his childhood against a background of military life in Elba, Corsica, Naples, and Madrid. After the Napoleonic defeat, the Hugo family settled in straitened circumstances in Paris, where, at the age of fifteen, Victor Hugo commenced his literary career with a poem submitted to a contest sponsored by the Académie Française. Twenty-four years later, Hugo was elected to the Académie, having helped revolutionize French literature with his poems, plays, and novels. Entering politics, he won a seat in the National Assembly in 1848; but in 1851, he was forced to flee the country because of his opposition to Louis Napoleon. In exile on the Isle of Guernsey, he became a symbol of French resistance to tyranny; upon his return to Paris after the Revolution of 1870, he was greeted as a national hero. He continued to serve in public life and to write with unabated vigor until his death in 1885. He was buried in the Pantheon with every honor the French nation could bestow.

Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee have translated two volumes of the letters of Jean-Paul Sartre, edited by Simone de Beauvoir: Witness to My Life and Quiet Moments in a War. For their work together, they have received an NEA Translation fellowship and the American Literary Translators Association Award. Lee Fahnestock has translated fiction as well as four volumes of the poetry of Francis Ponge, including The Making of the Pré and The Nature of Things. The French Government honored her with the Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres. Norman MacAfee’s other books include One Class: Selected Poems; The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now; the opera The Death of the Forest; and translations of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s poetry.


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 1488 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics; Unabridged edition (March 3, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451525264
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451525260
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 2.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having not read many literature books in my lifetime, undertaking to read one of the finest piece of work ever written is a challenge.

If you are like me and have read the reviews on Amazon before tackling this gigantic novel then I do not need to go on about how great this book is and what it is all about.

Also, if like me, you are a beginner in the world of fine literature, the following are a few tips I would give to those who haven't read Les Miserables. Here goes:

1. Get the book and do not be intimidated by its size. It is huge but the chapters are not very long and this version is made so that it is easier to understand. If you compare several different translation, you will see the difference.

2. Make sure to buy the Signet Classic version translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee (ISBN 0-451-52526-4). One reviewer said that this was the best version available and I totally agree with that. This is the new version based on the 19th Century Charles E. Wilbour translation. I had another version of this book and this one is by far the only completely unabridged paperback and also more reader-friendly.

3. Have a dictionary handy as there are many words that need translation.

4. Knowing the French language/history is a bonus but not required. Although knowing about French history will make some of his detailed descriptions of France not so tedious. In one chapter entitled "In the Year 1817" he talks about what was going on in France in that time period and although I read every single word, I must confess I was confused because it is all based on the history of France in that year of which I know nothing.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I'm a high school sophomore amd we had to read this book for school last semester. Honestly I wasn't encouraged by it's seemingly impossible thickness, nor by its slow start. Having never before seen any Les Mis movie or play or the musical (which is ALMOST as awesome as the book) I didn't know anything about the plot or the great characters and the whole experience was new to me. This is the only book I've ever read that has kept me up hours as night just to finish one beautiful part after another. My sister made fun of me that I would always talk to the book but when the believable characters act in ways that so thoroughly move your heart it's hard to resist sighing or commentary. Hugo is truly a master at combining every element of everything human to create characters from all walks of life and intertwine them into a poetically romantic plot that can only be described as beautiful. But don't skip the descriptions just to move from event to event. Hugo, I feel, has the unique ability to convey idea and thoughts and descriptions in a way that touches your heart and makes you think and yet at the same time doesn't bog you down with flowery adjectives. The language in his page-long paragraph descriptions flow so naturally you find yourself nodding and flipping pages and before you know it you're on to the next event in the plot. My friends laughed at me when we recently traveled to Paris and I wanted to buy the two-volume unabridged original Les Miserables- even though I don't know a word of French! It is a tragedy for any person with a poetic mind or a romantic heart to miss this book-truly a human classic.
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Format: Paperback
I have both the original Wilbour translation and the Norman Denny translation of this book, and I'd say that the Denny translation is the more readable of the two. Graham Robb, in his award-winning biography of Hugo has called Denny's translation "swiss cheese" and "translation as censorship." However, it's well-written, and the "excised" sections are included as appendices to which any reader can turn. In places where Denny edits the prose, he captures the spirit of the novel.

But the best comparison is made by reading:

here's Wilbour from the beginning of Part Two, Book Four:

"Forty years ago, the solitary pedestrian who ventured into the unknown region of La Salpetriere and went up along the Boulevard as far as the Barrier d'italie, reached certain points where it might be said that Paris had disappeared. It was no longer a solitude, for there were people passing; it was not the country for there were houses and streets. It was not a city, the streets had ruts in them, like highways, and grass grew along their borders; it was not a village, the houses were too lofty. What was it then? It was an inhabited place where there was nobody. It was a desert place where there was somebody. It was a boulevard of the great city, a street of Paris, wilder at night than a forest and gloomier by day than a graveyard. It was the old quarter of the horse-market."

Denny's version of the same passage

" A stroller forty years ago penetrating beyond the Salpetriere by way of the Boulevard de l'Hopital as far as the Barrierr d'italie, would have come to a region where Paris seemed to disappear.
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